Michigan and Ontario   -    23 May - 7 June 2008 
Birding trip report: sites (maps and photos) & species list
John van der Woude  - 
www.jvanderw.nl
This easy trip, done by the two of us in a rental car from Toronto, had several purposes. First, we finally wanted to see the northern wood warblers in their breeding habitat, and the last ones on migration together with other migrating birds. Second, we finally wanted to bird in the American equivalent of our often visited Scandinavian habitats (and hence get a few more lifers). Third, we paid a visit to relatives near London, Ontario; this was on the last two days.
The dollar (both US and Canadian) was very low so the trip was not expensive at all. We stayed in middle-class motels/hotels (a lot to choose from), and had good meals nearly everywhere. Additional food was often bought in gas stations. Car fuel may seem expensive to Americans but it was half of what we pay in Europe. Personal safety was not an issue at all. As ever in North America, the people were very friendly. The weather was mostly good, except maybe at Whitefish Point, a notorious place in this respect. The ABA birdfinding guide for Michigan (see below) was excellent, and its recent appearance was another reason for coming. As a guide like this does not exist for Ontario, the emphasis in the trip was automatically on Michigan. However, Point Pelee in southern Ontario and Chapleau in northern Ontario were also very good.
 

The left-hand map shows the border between Michigan (USA) and Ontario (Canada).
The three maps below are from North to South. Sites visited, in chronological sequence:
1. Point Pelee
2. Hillman Marsh
3. Nayanquing Point SWA
4. Tawas Point
5. Au Sable river area
6. N of Trout Lake
7. Taquamenon river mouth
8. Whitefish Point
9. Taquamenon Falls
10. Kingston Plains
11. Seney NWR
12. Hulbert Bog
13. Lake Superior park
14. The Shoals
15. Chapleau Game Preserve
16. Dingman's Marsh
17. Grass Bay Preserve
18. Shiawassee NWR
19. Port Huron SGA

All 14 Michigan sites (and many more!) are well described in: 
A.T. Chartier & J. Ziarno - A birder's guide to Michigan. ABA 2004. The site descriptions have good local maps. Do consult this guide in orde to know which species are possible at each site. Moreover, the extensive bar graph at the end of the book shows the likelihood of seeing the species in the different regions of Michigan, for every species.

 

 

Near the south tip of the famous Point Pelee peninsula in Ontario, Canada. An open vehicle brings you to this point, where the woodland reaches the very tip of this protruding peninsula where so many migrating birds land after having crossed Lake Erie from the South. Many Cedar Waxwing and orioles at this spot, and ten warbler species (including Canada Warbler), but most migrants had apparently moved up a bit already, to the central and northern part of the peninsula. 'At sea' (Lake Erie), Bonaparte's Gull and Lesser Scaup.


The road through the central part of the Point Pelee peninsula. Good views on the wood warblers left and right, as well as on cuckoos (we had both Black-billed and Yellow-billed). Blackburnian Warbler high in the trees, and singing Least Flycatcher close to the road. The Woodland Trail (East of the road) is one of the better birding trails, we got the specialties Golden-winged and Hooded Warbler there.


View along Point Pelee's Laurier Homestead Trail with several Blackpoll, Chestnut-sided and Black-and-White Warbler, and an Orange-crowned Warbler. Green Heron too. American Redstart and Yellow Warbler abundant here.


Hillman Marsh just North of Point Pelee produced several waders - Semipalmated Sandpipers, Dunlin, Short-billed Dowitcher ('prairie subspecies' according to the Sibley field guide), Black-bellied and Semipalmated Plover. This new wetland (a former arable field probably) is on the outer rim of the reserve; from the parking lot walk to the right as far as possible.


 Nayanquing Point State Wildlife Area, our first site in Michigan, and situated along the Eastern coast. Several Yellow-headed Blackbird (the only ones of the trip), but because of the strong wind not much else.


Tawas Point, a sandy spit into Lake Huron (the mainland is visible across the bay). This is a well-known migrant trap and we got many warblers and vireos, including Mourning (one of the few possible lifers on this trip), Nashville and Canada Warbler and Philadelphia Vireo. Also several sparrow species, Brown Thrasher, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Bald Eagle, Merlin, Peregrine (not usual here but well seen), Scarlet Tanager, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher.


Towards the tip of the Tawas spit, where we had Least and Semi-palmated Sandpiper together, and a Sanderling.


One of the Kirtland Warbler protection areas NE of Tawas, near the Sable river. No luck in this particular area (where we were led to by a ranger that we accidentally met), but we had extremely good views in another area North of the Sable river. Finding this rare species without participating in one of the usual excursions from Mio or Grayling saved us half a day or so.


The bridge from the Lower to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.


Forest Road 3145 N of Trout Lake on Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and West of main road 123. Location B of site EU-11 in the ABA birdfinding guide. Grey Jay and Boreal Chickadee, and many singing White-throated Sparrow. At nearby locations A singing Connecticut Warbler and at C (at the other side of main road 123) Palm and Pine Warbler.


The forest area N of Trout Lake is rather wet, creating a mosaic of different vegetations, and hence a good bird diversity.

The Taquamenon river mouth (site nr. 7 on the above maps) is a nice small site but we stayed here only 20 minutes. A Pileated Woodpecker was feeding fanatically on a dead tree on the other (northern) side of the narrow river.

Whitefish Point, one of the most famous bird sites of Michigan, protrudes into Lake Superior and is another migrant trap. It is famous the migration of raptors as well as seabirds and songbirds. The weather was not very good here, but we saw quite a few warblers, and also species like Evening Grosbeak and Purple Finch. Loons and Red-breasted Mergansers were often visible 'at sea'.


Our most numerous songbirds at Whitefish Point were Blue Jay and Black-capped Chickadee. Of both species, several groups of a dozen or more were wandering around in this small area.

 
 Going inland from Paradise, the little town where to stay for visiting Whitefish Point, leads to two nice birding roads,  Farm Truck Road and Swamp Lake Road (photo), both alongside Taquamenon Falls State Park. The former produced Spruce Grouse, Sandhill Crane and Lincoln's Sparrow, the latter Yellow-rumped Warbler, Blue-headed Vireo and Trumpeter Swan.


The Kingston Plains had few birds (late afternoon), but look promising. This is along the dead-end side road going right towards a now broken bridge (Taylor Dam Road?). Some Brown Thrasher and Eastern Bluebird, and two Sandhill Crane.


The open area along the 'Diversion Ditch' near the northern entrance of Seney National Wildlife Refuge gave us the promised Sharp-tailed Grouse indeed. Also Brewers Blackbird, Upland Sandpiper and Bobolink (display flights).


Print of a Gray Wolf (Canis lupus) in the same area. We were able to compare this with a print in the visitor centre. Do wolfs eat grouse?


 This is a trick to keep Tree Swallows away from the nest of an Eastern Bluebird. 
Often, a Tree Swallow occupies a bluebird's nest box, but it will not tolerate another Tree Swallow near its own nest. So by placing two nest boxes next to each other, one will be occupied by a Tree Swallow and the other is available for a bluebird.
Same area as previous two photos; with singing Savanna Sparrows.

 
Typical view of the eastern part of Seney NWR, not far from the visitor centre. Interesting scenery, but no trip ticks apart from Caspian Tern.

 Hulbert Bog (site nr. 12 on the above maps) is just a small detour from the main road M28, and produced a Ruffed Grouse, quietly walking across the dust road.

In Canada again (northern Ontario), view from south of Lake Superior Provincial Park. A White-winged Scoter was swimming around, apparently still on migration or maybe not healthy.


In Lake Superior Provincial Park, just along the main road, one sees many sites like this. Beavers have built a dam (centre of the photo) and many trees have died because of that. In one of these small lakes we had our first Hooded Merganser, and Rusty Blackbird, one of the last lifer icterids for us.


Along the road from Wawa (an important stop in this empty northern part of Ontario) eastward to Chapleau, we dared to get out of the car to get a better view of this Black Bear. Along this road, we had five Black Bears in total.


Same spot as previous photo, this site is called The Shoals. We added Goldeneye and Wilson´s Snipe to the list.


Moose crossing the road through the immense and very impressive Chapleau Game Reserve.  More beavers, bears, Goldeneye, and even a Spruce Grouse on a side track. We even had migrating birds along this 80 km long South-North road: a group of 7 Cedar Waxwing and some Blue Jays. Ovenbird was often heard, and once seen, in the dense woods along the road.


Common view in the Chapleau reserve. Commonest bird in lakes like this was Ring-necked Duck, also some Goldeneye, a White-winged Scoter, Hooded Merganser pairs and even two Bonaparte's Gulls. Several Tree Swallows, and once Cape May Warbler singing at a place like here at the right hand. Less Common Loon than expected.

 
Bears may be impressive, but this group of Otters halfway the Chapleau reserve road was an absolute highlight. They swam towards us! We were standing on the road, and this creek went through a broad culvert underneath us to a small lake on the other side of the road. And they went there indeed.


Back in Michigan, we visited Dingman's Marsh on the north coast of the Lower Peninsula. American Bittern was the best species here, and in the nice woodland to the right of the photo we added Red-breasted Nuthatch to the list.

This is site nr. 17 on the above maps, a small wet dune area called Grass Bay Preserve. The narrow trail towards this little gem is not easy to find, it's a very small mark along the main road. We saw remarkable and probably rare plants, and finally go to see a Veery with its eerie song. Also a Garter snake of 50 cm, and this brave Killdeer.


Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge was one of the highlights of our trip. Prothonotary Warbler is one of our most favorite warblers, and this reserve is a real stake-out for that species. It's a nice 40 minutes walk to reach the prothonotaries from the parking lot near the end of Curtis road, which runs along the South side of the reserve. Shore Lark is around the parking lot, and several Willow Flycatchers sing North of the parking lot. Near the spot of the photo we were so lucky to witness the jumping out of their nest box of six Wood Duck ducklings. Afterwards we spoke the warden of this reserve, and he said he had never seen this happen in his 20 or so years in reserves like this.


This is where we saw a few pairs of Prothonotary Warbler in the Shiawassee refuge. From the parking lot, walk up North, then at a complicated crossing keep right, then after about 200 m go left, then after 2 km or so go right at a sign 'Photo Blind 1/4 mile' and then find the birds along the bayou. Their song is rather loud. Of course, seeing this beautiful golden-colored bird amidst the dark woods is an unforgettable experience. We saw three pairs close by along the trail. Be careful, there are also many Yellow Warblers around.
Do walk on to the watch tower, which overlooks a nice open marsh behind the woods. Got a note that Sedge Wren is a specialty of this open marsh.


Port Huron State Game Area was our last site in Michigan, before heading towards London (Ontario) for the visit to the relatives. ABA says this is a good site for a few warbler species (in their breeding habitat) that are not so easy elsewhere in Michigan, and we found all three whished species near the bridge of location B of the ABA guide: Mourning Warbler (although we had seen that earlier on the trip) right at the bridge, and Blue-winged and Cerulean Warbler at the spot of this photo. This spot can be reached by following the narrow trail from the SW corner of the parking lot.

Species list

PP = Point Pelee, Ontario, Canada.
TW = Tawas area incl. Sable river and Kirtland Warbler area, Michigan.
UP = Upper Peninsula, Michigan.
ON = Ontario (Canada) NE of Sault St. Marie
LO = remaining sites on Michigan's Lower Peninsula:
DM = Dingman's Marsh and Grass Bay preserve
SW = Shiawassee NWR
PH = Port Huron SGA
NA = Nayanquing Point State Wildlife Area

Note: for all Michigan sites visited, the ABA guide shows in detail which species can be found there (see esp. table).

* = species was lifer for us.
Michigan & Ontario 2008  PPTWUPONLO
       
Common Loon   UPONDM
Pied-billed Grebe     DM
Double-crested Cormorant PP     
Great Blue Heron     DM, SW
Great White Egret PP   SW
Green (Striated) Heron PP     
American Bittern     DM
Trumpeter Swan *   UP   
Canada Goose PPTW ON  
Wood Duck PP  ONDM, SW
Mallard   UPON 
Northern Shoveler   UP SW
Blue-winged Teal PP UP   
Northern Shoveler PP     
Ring-necked Duck PP UPON  
Lesser Scaup PP     
White-winged Scoter    ON  
Common Goldeneye    ON  
Hooded Merganser *    ON  
Common Merganser   UP   
Red-breasted Merganser   UP   
Turkey Vulture PPTW ON  
Golden Eagle   UPON  
Bald Eagle  TWUP   
Northern Harrier   UP DM,NA
Sharp-shinned Hawk PP UPON  
Cooper's Hawk    ONDM
Broad-winged Hawk  TWUPON  
Red-tailed Hawk  TW    
Osprey  TWUP  
American Kestrel   UP   
Merlin  TWUP  
Spruce Grouse *   UPON  
Ruffed Grouse *   UP   
Sharp-tailed Grouse *   UP   
Sandhill Crane   UP   
Grey (Black-bellied) Plover PPTW    
Semipalmated Plover PPTW    
Killdeer PPTWUP  
Wilson's Snipe    ON  
Upland Sandpiper   UP   
Spotted Sandpiper PP UPON  
Ruddy Turnstone  TW    
Short-billed Dowitcher PP     
Sanderling  TW   
Semipalmated Sandpiper PPTW    
Dunlin PPTW   
Least Sandpiper  TW    
Ring-billed Gull   UP   
Herring Gull  TW    
Bonaparte's Gull * PP  ON  
Caspian Tern   UP   
Common Tern  TWUP   
Black Tern PP   DM
Mourning Dove   UP   
Black-billed Cuckoo * PP     
Yellow-billed Cuckoo PP     
Chimney Swift PP     
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  TW    
Belted Kingfisher PP UPONSW
Red-bellied Woodpecker PP     
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker   UP   
Hairy Woodpecker  TWUP   
Downy Woodpecker PP  ON  
Northern Flicker  TWUP DM
Pileated Woodpecker   UPON  
Olive-sided Flycatcher    ON  
Eastern Wood-pewee PPTWUP   
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher *  TWUP   
Alder Flycatcher *   UPONDM
Willow Flycatcher *     SW
Least Flycatcher PPTW    
Eastern Phoebe   UP   
Great Crested Flycatcher PPTW   DM
Eastern Kingbird PPTWUP   
Horned (Shore) Lark     SW
Tree Swallow PPTWUPONDM
Purple Martin PP     
Northern Rough-winged Swallow  PP     
Sand Martin (Bank Swallow)     NA
Cliff Swallow  TW    
Barn Swallow PP  ON  
Cedar Waxwing PPTWUPONDM
Winter Wren   UPON  
House Wren PP    
Grey Catbird PPTW    
Northern Mockingbird PP     
Brown Thrasher  TWUP DM
Eastern Bluebird  TWUP   
Veery     DM
Swainson's Thrush PP  ON  
Hermit Thrush   UP   
American Robin PP     
Ruby-crowned Kinglet   UP   
Golden-crowned Kinglet    ON  
Blue-grey Gnatcatcher PPTWUP   
Black-capped Chickadee PP UP   
Boreal Chickadee *   UP   
White-breasted Nuthatch  TWUP   
Red-breasted Nuthatch     DM
Brown Creeper PP     
Grey Jay   UP  
Blue Jay PPTWUPON  
Common Raven  TWUPON  
American Crow   UP   
House Sparrow       
European Starling       
White-eyed Vireo PP     
Blue-headed Vireo *   UP   
Philadelphia Vireo  TWUPON  
Red-eyed Vireo PPTWUPON  
Eastern Warbling-vireo PPTW    
Blue-winged Warbler     PH
Golden-winged Warbler PPTW    
Tennessee Warbler PPTW ON  
Orange-crowned Warbler PP     
Nashville Warbler  TWUPON  
Northern Parula PP UPON  
Yellow Warbler PPTW ONSW
Chestnut-sided Warbler PPTWUP   
Magnolia Warbler PPTWUPON  
Cape May Warbler    ON  
Black-throated Blue Warbler PP    DM
Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler PPTWUPON  
Black-throated Green Warbler PPTWUPON  
Blackburnian Warbler PPTW    
Pine Warbler   UPON  
Kirtland's Warbler *  TW    
Palm Warbler   UP   
Bay-breasted Warbler PP  ON  
Blackpoll Warbler PPTW    
Cerulean Warbler     PH
Black-and-white Warbler PP UP   
American Redstart PPTWUPON  
Prothonotary Warbler     SW
Ovenbird    ON 
Northern Waterthrush    ON  
Connecticut Warbler   UP   
Mourning Warbler *  TW  PH
Hooded Warbler PP     
Wilson's Warbler PPTWUPON  
Canada Warbler PPTWUP DM
Common Yellowthroat PPTWUPONDM
Scarlet Tanager  TW    
Song Sparrow  TW  SW,NA
Lincoln's Sparrow   UP   
White-throated Sparrow   UPON  
White-crowned Sparrow PP UP   
Dark-eyed Junco   UPON  
Savannah Sparrow  TWUP   
Chipping Sparrow PPTW    
Eastern Towhee PP     
Rose-breasted Grosbeak PPTW   DM, SW
Northern Cardinal PP   SW
Indigo Bunting PP     
Orchard Oriole PPTW    
Northern (Baltimore) Oriole PPTW   SW
Red-winged Blackbird PP     
Yellow-headed Blackbird      NA
Rusty Blackbird *    ON  
Common Grackle       
Brewer's Blackbird   UP   
Brown-headed Cowbird PP     
Bobolink   UP  
American Goldfinch  TWUP DM, SW
Purple Finch   UP   
Evening Grosbeak   UP   
Red Crossbill   UP   
 
Remarks on some rarer species:
Upland Sandpiper: clearly scoped in the grassland of the northern part of Seney NWR, on 1 June.
Northern Mockingbird: noted as seen in Point Pelee NP on 24 May; we did not realize then how
special this bird is in this region.
White-eyed Vireo: same remark as for N. Mockingbird.
Connecticut Warbler: clearly heard at its stake-out location A of the ABA-guide site EU-11 North
of Trout Lake on the Upper Peninsula.
Red Crossbill: two seen on the surface of the sandy Vermillion road near Whitefish Point,
Upper Peninsula.
 

Nederlandse namen volgens Dutch Birding West-Palearctische soorten 2008
Dutch names acc. to Dutch Birding bird names - list of Western Palearctic bird species 2008

Common Loon IJsduiker
Pied-billed Grebe Dikbekfuut
Double-crested Cormorant Geoorde Aalscholver
Great Blue Heron Am. Blauwe Reiger
Great White Egret Grote Zilverreiger
Green (Striated) Heron Groene Reiger
American Bittern N-Am. Roerdomp
Canada Goose (Grote) Canadese Gans
Wood Duck Carolina-eend
Mallard Wilde Eend
Blue-winged Teal Groenvleugeltaling
Northern Shoveler Slobeend
Ring-necked Duck Ringsnaveleend
Lesser Scaup Kleine Topper
White-winged Scoter Am. Grote Zee-eend
Common Goldeneye Brilduiker
Hooded Merganser Kokardezaagbek
Common Merganser Grote Zaagbek
Red-brested Merganser Middelste Zaagbek
Turkey Vulture Kalkoengier
Golden Eagle Steenarend
Bald Eagle Am. Zeearend
Northern Harrier (Am.) Blauwe Kiekendief
Osprey Visarend
American Kestrel Am. Torenvalk
Merlin Smelleken
Peregrine Falcon Slechtvalk
Sandhill Crane Canadese Kraanvogel
Grey (Bl.-bellied) Plover Zilverplevier
Semipalmated Plover Am. Bontbekplevier
Killdeer Killdeerplevier
Wilson's Snipe Am. Watersnip
Upland Sandpiper Bartrams Ruiter
Spotted Sandpiper Am. Oeverloper
Ruddy Turnstone Steenloper
Short-billed Dowitcher Kleine Grijze Snip
Sanderling Drieteenstrandloper
Semipalmated Sandpiper Grijze Strandloper
(Western Sandpiper) (Alaskastrandloper)
Dunlin Bonte Strandloper
Ring-billed Gull Ringsnavelmeeuw
Herring Gull Zilvermeeuw
Bonaparte's Gull Kleine Kokmeeuw
Caspian Tern Reuzenstern
Common Tern Visdief
Black Tern (Am.) Zwarte Stern
Mourning Dove Treurduif
Black-billed Cuckoo Zwartsnavelkoekoek
Yellow-billed Cuckoo Geelsnavelkoekoek
Chimney Swift Schoorsteengierzwaluw
Belted Kingfisher Bandijsvogel
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Geelbuiksapspecht
Alder Flycatcher Elzenfeetiran
Least Flycatcher Kleine Feetiran
Eastern Phoebe Phoebe
Horned (Shore) Lark Strandleeuwerik
Tree Swallow Boomzwaluw
Purple Martin Purperzwaluw
Sand Martin (Bank Swallow) Oeverzwaluw
Cliff Swallow Am. Klifzwaluw
Barn Swallow (Am.) Boerenzwaluw
Cedar Waxwing Cederpestvogel
Winter Wren Winterkoning
Grey Catbird Katvogel
Northern Mockingbird Spotlijster
Brown Thrasher Rosse Spotlijster
Veery Veery
Swainson's Thrush Dwerglijster
Hermit Thrush Heremietlijster
American Robin Roodborstlijster
Ruby-crowned Kinglet Roodkroonhaan
Red-breasted Nuthatch Canadese Boomklever
Common Raven Raaf
House Sparrow Huismus
European Starling Spreeuw
White-eyed Vireo Witoogvireo
Philadelphia Vireo Philadelphiavireo
Red-eyed Vireo Roodoogvireo
Evening Grosbeak Avonddikbek
Red Crossbill Kruisbek
Blue-winged Warbler Blauwvleugelzanger
Golden-winged Warbler Geelvleugelzanger
Tennessee Warbler Tennesseezanger
Northern Parula Brilparulazanger
Yellow Warbler Gele Zanger
Chestnut-sided Warbler Roestflankzanger
Magnolia Warbler Magnoliazanger
Cape May Warbler Tijgerzanger
Black-throated Blue Warbler Blauwe Zwartkeelzanger
Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler Mirtezanger
Black-throated Green Warbler Gele Zwartkeelzanger
Blackburnian Warbler Sparrenzanger
Palm Warbler Palmzanger
Bay-breasted Warbler Kastanjezanger
Blackpoll Warbler Zwartkopzanger
Cerulean Warbler Azuurzanger
Black-and-white Warbler Bonte Zanger
American Redstart Am. Roodstaart
Ovenbird Ovenvogel
Northern Waterthrush Noordse Waterlijster
Common Yellowthroat Gewone Maskerzanger
Hooded Warbler Monnikszanger
Wilson's Warbler Wilsons Zanger
Canada Warbler Canadese Zanger
Scarlet Tanager Zwartvleugeltangare
Song Sparrow Zanggors
White-throated Sparrow Witkeelgors
White-crowned Sparrow Witkruingors
Dark-eyed Junco Grijze Junco
Savannah Sparrow Savannahgors
Eastern Towhee Roodflanktowie
Rose-breasted Grosbeak Roodborstkardinaal
Indigo Bunting Indigogors
Northern (Baltimore) Oriole Baltimoretroepiaal
Yellow-headed Blackbird Geelkoptroepiaal
Brown-headed Cowbird Bruinkopkoevogel
Bobolink Bobolink
: 117 species also in WP; : 117 soorten ook in WP,
of these, 90 are vagrants in WP waarvan 90 dwaalgast zijn in WP